Encouraging readers to explore the nature of the UAE, but also with caution to those who are negligent and cause harm to the environment.
While the UAE may be famed for its glitz and glamor, and iconic structures such as the Burj Khalifa and Etihad Towers, one must not forget some of the real beauties of this country, which can only be found as you wander further and further away from the city life.
The UAE has a beautiful natural landscape in the form of deserts, sand dunes, mountains, and valleys (wadis), that not everyone might have had the chance to explore. But for Emiratis and those who have grown up here, these places spark up memories of childhood adventures. Without these grand malls and five star hotels that we have today, families would drive to the open road and find shade and solitude in these natural habitats, spreading out their picnic mats and baskets, as children ran around playing with sticks and stones, climbing mountains, and the elderly relished their surroundings, and cooked their meals on an open fire.
Even today, if you venture out to the mountains, you will find many families enjoying the outdoors. This is mainly a winter tradition where the cooler months of the year allows you to spend time outdoors and breathe in the fresh air.
The more adventurous can be found hiking and climbing the vast mountains, discovering and getting acquainted with the wildlife, fossils, and ruins. Camping is also popular with those who are brave enough to sleep in the desert away from the comfort and luxuries of their homes.
However, as more and more people venture out to discover these areas, many are negligent and tend to leave their garbage behind. It is sad to see that people do not pick up after themselves and these natural surroundings are now being littered with garbage. Littering also poses several dangers to the desert wildlife such as camels, goats, and gazelles who could risk their lives if they eat plastic or other materials that their bodies cannot digest. These are issues that are ongoing and continue to endanger the environment. Nevertheless, the Waste Management Department at Dubai Municipality has taken action by introducing drones to check whether campers in the deserts of Dubai are leaving waste behind. Those that are caught will be imposed with fines ranging from AED 500 to AED 5,000. This has been introduced as an effort to reduce the 8,200 tons of waste that are generated annually[i]. While this is one way to curb such issues; we, as individuals, also need to learn to respect the environment as we would do with our own homes.
In order for us to be able to continue to enjoy these outdoor activities, it is crucial that we do our utmost to preserve the environment and the first step would be to pick up our own garbage. Failure to do so will endanger our deserts and wildlife, and lead to a grim future.
While we get to explore and enjoy the true nature of the UAE, we also need to ensure that we allow others to do so as well. We have limited cool months in the year, and there is much to be seen, so get together with your friends and family, get a 4X4 with good GPS, and head out towards the mountains. There is a world of nature to explore, but just remember to do it responsibly!
[i] Sajila Saseendran, Gulf News (12 November 2016). “Drones to catch litterbugs in Dubai desert camps”. http://gulfnews.com/news/uae/environment/drones-to-catch-litterbugs-in-dubai-desert-camps-1.1928245